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Master Forensic Science

Career prospects and your background

As a graduate of the Master’s Forensic Science, you have obtained what can be called ‘forensic awareness’, e.g. an overview of the entire forensic process and to know and understand the forensic and societal context you are working in. No matter what your position in the chain of evidence is, as a forensic scientist you are working at the service of the judicial system, in an interdisciplinary field which develops rapidly and where the stakes are high.

Where do our alumni end up?

After a year of learning about the forensic framework followed by a specialisation in your own scientific background (see study programme), you have the knowledge and skills to continue as a researcher (doing a forensic PhD) at the university, or as a forensic expert at forensic institutes or police force, or as a forensic advisor/coordinator/consultant at court, police force or IT companies. Your disciplinary specialisation also gives you the opportunity to continue with a PhD in a particular scientific discipline, or to work as a researcher at research institutes and companies.

Overview alumni FS 2018
As you can see from the graph, we have relatively few students with computer science, math and physics background, but they have a higher than average chance of finding a job in the forensic field.
Download overview alumni

Career prospects and your background

If you would like to gain further insight into the relation of your own specialism and forensic science, read the case below and then click on your own specialism. There you can find the topics related to your field, descriptions based on the career prospects of an academic researcher, forensic expert, and forensic advisor, and some career examples of our alumni.

The Case

6.41 p.m.

The police get a phone call from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, stating that their 14-year-old daughter has not returned from school that day. She is not answering her phone and her friends also have no clue where she could be. The parents are very worried that something has happened to their child and the police take the case very seriously. They start searching for the girl by first inspecting the area around her school. After a few hours, they find the bike of the girl, as well as her mobile phone and backpack, in the forest between the school and the Smith’s house. Besides the partly crushed bike and the personal belongings of the girl, no clearly visible traces are found.

Based on circumstantial information, the police fear the girl to be kidnapped or even worse. They start a large scale investigation to find the girl and the perpetrator(s). But solving this case will not be easy and definitely requires an interdisciplinary team of forensic investigators. Do you want to know what you could add to solving this case based on your Bachelor expertise? Then please click on (the field of) your Bachelor education below and find out.

  • Chemistry (Biochemistry/technology, Chemistry, Pharmaceutical, Forensic research)

    Are you interested in performing research to aid future investigations?

    One of the fields within forensic science where they could definitely use your chemical knowledge is forensic toxicology. The techniques used for the detection of drugs and other poisons in the body include well established chemical techniques, but the interpretation of the results in a forensic context is not always as straightforward as it might seem. For example, research has shown that both GHB and alcohol are formed by bacteria after death. Getting more insight into this process and learning more about these post-mortem background levels is thus very important. Since, in the scenario where the girl is found dead and GHB and alcohol are found in her body, the police of course want to know whether she has ingested these substances. Will you work together with biologists and forensic physicians on this kind of research to ultimately provide the police with the answer?

    Do you want to be part of the investigation as a forensic expert?

    Chemical analyses are of major importance in many forensic investigations. Therefore, your knowledge on chemistry is more than welcome! Suppose the police find paint traces on the girl’s bike that was found in the forest. These traces may indicate that the bike has been hit by another vehicle, leading to transfer of small amounts of paint. The colour of the paint will help the police in their search for the involved vehicle. Additionally, chemical analyses could provide extra information. By comparing the results of the analyses to reference databases, information regarding the model of the vehicle may be provided. And in the case where a suspect is apprehended, his vehicles could be seized for gathering paint samples. As a chemical expert, you could determine the chemical composition of gathered samples by performing pyrolysis gas chromatography, infrared or Raman spectroscopy, X-ray powder diffraction and/or SEM-EDX. Next, you compare the results to the analyses of the paint on the girl’s bike and you report your conclusions. Will you make your chemical knowledge forensically relevant? 

    Do you want to help the investigation further by giving advice?

    Large scale forensic investigations like the one described here are complex, involving professionals from lots of different fields of forensic expertise. This calls for the assistance of people having knowledge on these different fields of expertise and that are able to oversee the whole investigation. As a forensic coordinator, you could give advice to guide the investigation into the right direction to make sure the girl is found as soon as possible. But also after the forensic investigation has finished, your expertise is more than welcome. As a forensic consultant, you could help lawyers and judges to understand the reports written by the forensic experts during the investigation and give them advice about questions to ask for example. The Master’s Forensic Science teaches you about the forensic process and all different fields of forensic expertise, so you are able to see the big picture. At the same time, you will acquire professional skills, including working in teams, communication with non-experts, criminalistic reasoning, learning to think in scenarios and critical thinking. These skills are of great value for these advisory roles and for the roles described above. Will you use your knowledge and skills to assist in the forensic process?  

  • Computer science & Artificial intelligence

    Are you interested in performing research to aid future investigations?

    One of the hot topics within this field is the improvement of video matching technologies, where researchers try to develop algorithms that can compare videos on the internet and in databases to each other. In this way, videos made by the same camera can for example be identified, being of great use in for instance the search for child pornography. A related hot topic is the improvement of video recognition technologies. Improvement of this technique might allow us in the near future to recognise faces on images captured by surveillance cameras and to compare these with pictures in databases. This would of course help a lot in the missing girl case, if it is suspected that she has been caught on such a surveillance camera, being accompanied by the perpetrator(s). Will you work together with mathematicians to develop such an automated system to make these thoughts reality? 

    Do you want to be part of the investigation as a forensic expert?

    One of the first questions of the police is of course who has to do with the disappearance of the girl. They request an immediate investigation of the mobile phone found at the scene and the girl’s computer that has been seized from her home. Your knowledge on technology and computers is required to first unlock the devices and then to extract as much data as you can from them. Important questions are what the girl has been doing recently and who she has been in contact with. To this end, you also start an investigation on social media, performing for example a network analysis to identify which people might be able to help the investigation further by providing information, or even better: to identify the perpetrator(s). Will you make your technology knowledge forensically relevant?

    Do you want to help the investigation further by giving advice?

    Large scale forensic investigations like the one described here are complex, involving professionals from lots of different fields of forensic expertise. This calls for the assistance of people having knowledge on these different fields of expertise and that are able to oversee the whole investigation. As a forensic coordinator, you could give advice to guide the investigation into the right direction to make sure the girl is found as soon as possible. But also after the forensic investigation has finished, your expertise is more than welcome. As a forensic consultant, you could help lawyers and judges to understand the reports written by the forensic experts during the investigation and give them advice about questions to ask for example. The Master’s Forensic Science teaches you about the forensic process and all different fields of forensic expertise, so you are able to see the big picture. At the same time, you will acquire professional skills, including working in teams, communication with non-experts, criminalistic reasoning, learning to think in scenarios and critical thinking. These skills are of great value for these advisory roles and for the roles described above. Will you use your knowledge and skills to assist in the forensic process?

  • Life Sciences (Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Psychobiology, Molecular biology)

    Are you interested in performing research to aid future investigations?

    If you are more interested in performing research, you might think of performing research towards the improvement of current DNA technologies. Researchers are not only trying to make DNA technologies more sensitive to analyse the smallest amounts of DNA, they also try to make the required analysis time shorter. Another interesting subject being a hot topic these days, is the transition from genotype to phenotype. Suppose you find a DNA profile presumably of the perpetrator, but you don't get a hit in the database. In the ideal situation, you would still use the trace to determine all kinds of characteristics of the perpetrator like hair and eye colour, to facilitate the search for the perpetrator. In order to find new interesting traits and their associate DNA markers like SNPs, you will need to use your knowledge on genetics and work together with computer scientists to deal with the enormous amounts of data. Will you use your life science knowledge to find these new markers and help cases without a hit in the database further?

    Do you want to be part of the investigation as a forensic expert?

    After finding the girl's bike, an important question the police want to have answered is which exact route the girl took from the school to the spot in the forest were her bike was found. Although the forest was in between the school and her parents’ house, it was not part of her normal biking route. Knowing the exact route might provide important investigative leads to help the investigation further. But how to determine this when no clear tyre marks are found? That is where your knowledge on botany becomes forensically relevant. You will analyse the mud spatters that are found on the bike and the backpack, and determine the pollen composition. Subsequently, you compare this to the pollen composition of different places in the forest and neighbourhood and look for (dis)similarities. Will you provide the police with the most likely route by performing this investigation? Or do you have a background more specialized towards molecular biology? Then your knowledge might be crucial for the investigation as well. You will search the scene of interest for potential DNA traces that are left by the perpetrator(s) and compare the extracted DNA profiles to (inter)national databases. Will you find the crucial hit?

    Do you want to help the investigation further by giving advice?

    Large scale forensic investigations like the one described here are complex, involving professionals from lots of different fields of forensic expertise. This calls for the assistance of people having knowledge on these different fields of expertise and that are able to oversee the whole investigation. As a forensic coordinator, you could give advice to guide the investigation into the right direction to make sure the girl is found as soon as possible. But also after the forensic investigation has finished, your expertise is more than welcome. As a forensic consultant, you could help lawyers and judges to understand the reports written by the forensic experts during the investigation and give them advice about questions to ask for example. The Master’s Forensic Science teaches you about the forensic process and all different fields of forensic expertise, so you are able to see the big picture. At the same time, you will acquire professional skills, including working in teams, communication with non-experts, criminalistic reasoning, learning to think in scenarios and critical thinking. These skills are of great value for these advisory roles and for the roles described above. Will you use your knowledge and skills to assist in the forensic process?

  • Mathematics/Statistics/Probability Theory

    Are you interested in performing research to aid future investigations?

    Your mathematics knowledge is more than helpful in various research areas dealing with forensic statistics. For example, your research could focus on new statistical methods to determine the evidential value of complex DNA profiles obtained with new technologies. Statistical methods have already been developed for full DNA profiles obtained with standard techniques. However, during the past years methods for DNA analyses have become way more sensitive. Furthermore, new techniques have been developed to obtain information concerning the type of cell material (blood, saliva, semen, …) or physical characteristics of the DNA donor (eye colour, hair colour, …). But what is then the evidential value of such information? These genetic analyses must be interpreted with great care and that is where your statistical knowledge comes in. Will you develop better methods to determine the evidential value of complex profiles and help the forensic community with this urgent issue?

    Do you want to be part of the investigation as a forensic expert?

    Research in complex forensic cases often involves different types of evidence, analysed by forensic experts from different disciplines. All experts determine the so-called evidential value of their piece of evidence by themselves. Combining the evidential values of the different evidential types is very valuable for decision makers such as the police and judges, in order to get better insight into the evidence in favour or against a suspect. In the case of the missing girl, three important evidential types could be a (partial) DNA match, matching paint traces and images on a surveillance camera. But how to combine these? Simply adding or multiplying the evidential values won’t be the answer. That’s where your knowledge of mathematics comes in. You will use a probabilistic mathematical framework, and tools like Bayesian Networks, for performing the calculations and for determining the overall evidential value. Will you use your mathematics knowledge to help performing these important calculations?

    Do you want to help the investigation further by giving advice?

    Large scale forensic investigations like the one described here are complex, involving professionals from lots of different fields of forensic expertise. This calls for the assistance of people having knowledge on these different fields of expertise and that are able to oversee the whole investigation. As a forensic coordinator, you could give advice to guide the investigation into the right direction to make sure the girl is found as soon as possible. But also after the forensic investigation has finished, your expertise is more than welcome. As a forensic consultant, you could help lawyers and judges to understand the reports written by the forensic experts during the investigation and give them advice about questions to ask for example. The Master’s Forensic Science teaches you about the forensic process and all different fields of forensic expertise, so you are able to see the big picture. At the same time, you will acquire professional skills, including working in teams, communication with non-experts, criminalistic reasoning, learning to think in scenarios and critical thinking. These skills are of great value for these advisory roles and for the roles described above. Will you use your knowledge and skills to assist in the forensic process?

  • Physics

    Are you interested in performing research to aid future investigations?

    Typical research fields within forensic science where your physics background is of great value are bloodstain pattern analysis and ballistics. However, there is more out there: how about research into the aging of bruises? Suppose the girl is found - dead or alive - and shows bruises on her skin, the police would definitely want to know whether these bruises were caused while she was being kidnapped and whether they are the result of a single event or multiple. To answer these questions, age determination of the bruises is of vital importance. Previous research has shown that measuring the colour of a bruise using spectroscopic techniques can provide an age estimation of the bruise. Will you use your knowledge on optics and spectroscopy, and work together with biologists, chemists and forensic physicians to refine this method even further to ultimately be able to answer these kinds of police questions?

    Do you want to be part of the investigation as a forensic expert?

    One of the questions the police have after inspecting the area in the forest is what happened to the girl's bike that caused it to be crushed. The answer to this question could provide the police important investigative leads in the search for the girl and the perpetrator(s). Was she hit by a car while driving with her bike through the forest, or could the dent in the bike only be explained by the force of the impact of a smaller vehicle such as a scooter? You will use your knowledge on forces, acceleration, mass and features of different materials to come up with different hypotheses. Next, you will perform simulation experiments in which you apply different forces to the same kind of material as the bike. You study the impact and compare it to the status of the found bike. Will you provide the police with the most likely scenario regarding the status of the girl's bike that will help the investigation further?

    Do you want to help the investigation further by giving advice?

    Large scale forensic investigations like the one described here are complex, involving professionals from lots of different fields of forensic expertise. This calls for the assistance of people having knowledge on these different fields of expertise and that are able to oversee the whole investigation. As a forensic coordinator, you could give advice to guide the investigation into the right direction to make sure the girl is found as soon as possible. But also after the forensic investigation has finished, your expertise is more than welcome. As a forensic consultant, you could help lawyers and judges to understand the reports written by the forensic experts during the investigation and give them advice about questions to ask for example. The Master’s Forensic Science teaches you about the forensic process and all different fields of forensic expertise, so you are able to see the big picture. At the same time, you will acquire professional skills, including working in teams, communication with non-experts, criminalistic reasoning, learning to think in scenarios and critical thinking. These skills are of great value for these advisory roles and for the roles described above. Will you use your knowledge and skills to assist in the forensic process?